PURPLE HELLEBORE

HELLEBORUS PURPURASCENS

This article was translated by Angela Iancu!

Identification elements: The plant: perennial herbaceous species, 40-50 cm tall, with long rhizome from which develops numerous cylindrical roots: the stem is aerial, bifurcated and upright, shorter than the basal leaves, green or reddish; the leaves: alternated; 2 large radicles with long petiole, palmate with 5-7 leaflets, which can also be divided, 30 cm wide, finely toothed and with prominent veins; the stem’ leaves range from smaller and smaller and with shorter petiole to sessile towards the tip; the flowers: a few, large, simple flower structure, from 5 elements, purple-green towards the margin, 2-3 cm long; on the inside 15-20 nectaries, stamens and numerous ovaries; fruits: 4-6 (9) follicles 8-10 mm long united at the base, laterally compressed, with visible dorsal suture and veins.

 

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Helleborus purpurascens W. et. K.
Helleborus purpurascens W. et. K.

 

Helleborus purpurascens W. et. K.
Helleborus purpurascens W. et. K.

 

Flowering: very early, II – III (IV).

 

Raw material: Rhizoma Hellebori – the rhizome is up to 10 cm long and 0,3-0,8 cm thick, at the upper part it bears the scars of the aerial parts of last years. From the rhizome emerge numerous cylindrical roots, 2-5 mm in diameter, colored from dark-brawn to black when dried. Without characteristic odor, hot, burning, irritating flavor.

 

Ecology and distribution: The plant grows in forests and bushes in the hill and mountain area, in general at altitudes over 500-600 m. It can be found in the Carpathian Mountains and in the hills around the mountains.

 

Harvesting: The rhizomes with roots are harvested from august till the beginning of November with a spade; the aerial parts and the dark portions are cut off.

Because the product is toxic and it has an irritant action, after harvest the gatherers will wash their hands with water and soap.

 

Preparing the product for conditioning:  Immediately after harvest, the product is cleaned and washed with water (because of its toxicity, the washing will not be done in rivers or in water reservoirs for animal drinking). The drying is done in the sun or in covered, well aired places. The artificial drying is done at 40-60°C. The drying efficiency is 3-4/1.

 

The technical conditions for reception require that the product is formed out of rhizomes and roots that contain 5% impurities (other parts of the plant), foreign organic bodies max. 0,5% and mineral max. 1,5%, maximum humidity 13%. Also, are acceptable the rhizomes from H. odorus, which grows in the south part of the country and has green flowers.

 

Chemical structure: steroidic heterosides which through hydrolysis give helebrigenin, glucose and ramnose; two saponosides: helleborin and helleborein and an unsaturated lactone: protoanemonin.

 

Pharmacodynamic action – therapeutic uses: The glycoside give to the pharmaceutical products obtained from the Helleborus rhizome and roots a cardio-tonic action. Administered intravenously or orally only under medical supervision, these products have the same good results as the pharmaceutical products obtained from Strophantus and Digitalis species.

Because of the saponosides, the raw material is irritant, it is an acute purgative and it has occitocic properties (it stimulates the activity of the uterus muscles).

In the traditional vet medicine, the dry purple hellebore root is used against swine and sheep fever by inserting a fragment of the dry root into the ear’s lobe or under the skin.